Tuesday, 03 August 2010

THE 100 WORST "STIMULUS PACKAGE" ABUSES

Ken Berwitz

I have talked a lot about the so-called "stimulus package" over the past year and a half.  And I have blogged about several of the more profligate uses of this money.

But Senators Tom Coburn and John McCain have gone much further.  They have put together a list of 100 especially egregious uses of "stimulus" money, ranging from under $100,000 to hundreds of millions.

Among them:

-$554,000 to replace windows in an unused visitor center at Mt. St. Helens, with no plans to reopen it.

-$89,000 for a quarter mile of sidewalk in Boynton, Oklahoma, leading to a ditch

-$54,000,000 to the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut to build a combination tribal government center and practice court for a women's basketball team.  And, yes, they own the Mohegan Sun casino and could easily have funded a tribal center/basketball court on their own -- which, with their own money instead of ours, would have cost a tiny fraction of that amount, you can be sure.

-$15,800,000 to Boeing, to clean up a California pollution site, the San Susana Field Laboratory, which Boeing was largely responsible for polluting in the first place.  Boeing was fined $471,00 in 2007, for the pollution it caused.

Want to see more?  If you have the stomach for it, just click here and you can be sickened by all 100.

Then you can wonder, along with me, why our wonderful "neutral" media aren't all over the Obama administration for this grotesque misuse of taxpayer funds.

Is there any doubt that they would be telling us all about it if this were the Bush administration?


WHY DEMOCRATS ARE RUNNING FROM OBAMA

Ken Berwitz

In case you are one of the, oh, 50 or 60 people left who still can't fathom why Democratic candidates would be running from President Obama this year, read the following excerpt from this morning's USA Today.  I have a feeling it might provide some answers:

WASHINGTON Public support for President Obama's Afghanistan war policy has plummeted amid a rising U.S. death toll and the unauthorized release of classified military documents, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.

 

Support for Obama's management of the war fell to 36%, down from 48% in a February poll. Now, a record 43% also say it was a mistake to go to war there after the terrorist attacks in 2001.

 

The decline in support contributed to the lowest approval ratings of Obama's presidency. Amid a lengthy recession, more Americans support his handling of the economy (39%) than the war.

 

Even Obama's handling of the war in Iraq received record-low approval, despite a drawdown of 90,000 troops and the planned, on-schedule end of U.S. combat operations there this month.

 

Only 41% of those surveyed Tuesday through Sunday approved of the way Obama is handling his job, his lowest rating in the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll since he took office in January 2009. In Gallup's separate daily tracking poll, his approval was at 45% Monday.

Assuming these poll data are correct...

-The war in Afghanistan, which Mr. Obama took ownership of by declaring it "a war of necessity" and then ratcheting up the troop levels to four times what they were when President Bush left, is turning into a disaster -- something it most definitely was not under Mr. Bush.  Will he try to blame this on Bush, even though our current war effort is based on his decisions?  Count on it.

 

-Mr. Obama's handling of the economy, like his handling of Afghanistan, is also in the 30's.  And this is a year and a half after his so-called "stimulus package" was suppose to cap unemployment at 8% and give us a major recovery.  Will he try to blame this on Bush, even though our current economy is based on his decisions?  Count on it.

 

-Not surprisingly, Mr. Obama's overall approval rating has fallen as well.  It currently sits (squats is more like it) at 41%; the lowest since taking office.  Will he try to blame this on Bush, even though the current state of the union is based on his decisions and those of his hugely Democratic congress?  Count on it.

The one bright spot for Mr. Obama is that, in politics, from August to November is an eternity.  So, chronologically at least, there is still time for this to turn around.   

 

But how would it happen?  Is it likely that Afghanistan is going to improve, when it is Mr. Obama's decisions that have caused this mess?  Is the economy likely to improve, when just about every economist is talking about a dismal second half - and most are assuring the middle class that they will be hit with a tax rise at the end of the year to boot?

 

Nope and nope.

 

So there you go.  If you were still wondering why Democrats are running from Barack Obama, I hope this has been edifying. 

 

But, if not?  So be it.  Your immunity level to reason and logic is probably much too high for me to overcome.


OVERPAYING FOR NEWSWEEK

Ken Berwitz

Excerpted from Peter Lauria's article at thedailybeast.com

Ninety-one-year-old audio tycoon Sidney Harman's purchase of Newsweek yesterday was greeted with internal cheers. But a look inside the magazine's financial records, leaked to The Daily Beast, reveals its new crisis.

Yesterday's purchase of a 77-year-old magazine, Newsweek, by a 91-year-old audio magnate, Sidney Harman, had all the makings of a feel-good story, even as editor Jon Meacham announced his departure. A legendary media franchise rescued from an uncertain future by someone who regards Newsweek as a national treasure, and commits himself to the highest quality, Harman the idealist also has credibility as a brilliant innovator and businessman of stature. Though he has made his fortune in audio, he loves print. He is the author of two books and said writing enables the process of self-discovery. He will take over with a staff overjoyed by his commitment and his manners.

 

Harman was someone who was taken less seriously by the staff who worked on the deal, because he had no plan

 

But make no mistake, Harman's pocket change purchase of Newsweekhe paid $1, plus the assumption of liabilities for the magazinehas to be a passion play, because it certainly isn't a financial one. The Daily Beast has obtained a copy of the 66-page sales memorandum that the Newsweek seller, the Washington Post Co., gave to prospective buyers, and it paints a picture of a media property given to someone unequipped to fundamentally change the current trajectory.

Harman coughed up $1 to assume Newsweek's liabilities - not to mention its...what did Lauria say?  Oh yeah..."current trajectory"?

Frankly, he overpaid.  And by plenty.

Lucky for Harman that he can afford it.  But for how long? 

Ken free - you make a great point!! Thank you - and I'm sorry I didn't think of it first. (08/03/10)

Zeke .... Sidney Harman is the "Harman" in Harman-Kordan, the Audio Components firm, which he cofounded, and later sold to Beatrice Foods for $100 million in order to take a position with Carter's administration. .... He eventually bought the company back (2nd time he did this maneuver). .... .... His wife, Jane, is an 8 term Congresswoman from the San Francisco area, considered a Blue Dog Dem. .... She is the 2nd richest person in Congress. ..... Seems these two have the bucks. .... but Sidney is in his 90's (wife is much younger .... 65 ... but she is still in Congress). (08/03/10)

free` From the article at the NYT's - WITH a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline approaching for the final round of bids, at least two people were preparing to make offers for Newsweek while two others were told by the magazine’s owners that their bids would not be considered. ---- Shouldn't that be illegal? How can a publicly traded company refuse to let someone bid on buying the company? If I were a stockholder I would be pretty upset that they may have sold the company for less than they could have sold it for. (08/03/10)


BASIL MARCEAUX - THE REPUBLICAN ANSWER TO ALVIN GREENE

Ken Berwitz

Move over Alvin Greene!!

Basil Marceaux, a Republican candidate for Governor of Tennessee, is giving you some stiff competition.

Watch this campaign ad and see for yourself:

 

How can you bottom that?  (After watching the ad, I can't bring myself to ask how can you top that.)

Maybe Greene/Marceaux can be a 2012 presidential ticket......


THE NEW YORK TIMES' ANIMUS AGAINST ISRAEL: UPDATE

Ken Berwitz

I have often written about how anti-Israel the New York Times is, and has been for a many years.

Time for an update.

Here is an editorial from today's paper which should tell you pretty clearly what the problem is (and remains).  My comments are in blue:

Israel, Turkey and the U.N.

Published: August 2, 2010

 

It took too long, but Israel made the right decision in saying it would cooperate with a United Nations-led investigation into its disastrous attack on a Gaza-bound aid ship. Only a transparent and credible inquiry has a chance of calming international outrage over the incident and beginning to repair fractured Israeli-Turkish ties.  It took too long?  The fact that Israel would ever allow an investigation by the UN, which does not even try to hide its hatred of the Jewish state, is too soon, not too long.  And what exactly does the Times mean when it says Israel attacked?  Israel was intentionally provoked, and when it boarded the ship - as everyone knew it would - the passengers attacked Israeli soldiers, not the other way around.  If there was a disaster, it was entirely self-inflicted.

 

Turkey is understandably furious about the death of eight Turks and one Turkish-American in the May 31 raid on a flotilla. Israel says its soldiers acted in self-defense and that the flotilla was organized by radical activists, supported by Turkey, bent on provoking an incident.   This paragraph perfectly encapsulates the New York Times prejudices.  Turkey is understandably furious about the deaths of radical activists who provoked the fight and initiated the violence.  By contrast, Israels response is dryly noted, and thats all.  The Times ought to consider the fact that it is Israel who should be understandably furious.  Why?  Because these confrontation-seeking radicals came from Turkey with the Turkish governments blessing.  Oh, and one other thing:  That Turkish American claim is a load of BS.  The person in question was born in the USA, but lived in Turkey from the time he was 2 years old.  He was about as American as bin laden.

 

After resisting cooperation with the United Nations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel showed good sense when he said Monday that Israel has nothing to hide and that it is in Israels national interest to ensure that the factual truth about the entire flotilla incident is revealed to the whole world. Turkey also welcomed the investigation and promised to cooperate.  Netanyahu is cooperating by first holding off the UN long enough to make his point, and only then allowing this charade to go forth.  Good for him.  Anyone who thinks Israel will get a fair shake, or anything remotely approaching one, from the UN has been in a coma for the last 40 years.

This is a leap of faith for Israel, whose enemies have sometimes used the United Nations as an anti-Israel cudgel. SOMETIMES??????????  When DON'T they?????  The four-member panel will include Geoffrey Palmer, a former prime minister of New Zealand; the outgoing president of Colombia, lvaro Uribe; and an Israeli and a Turk, who must be of high caliber and committed to an honest outcome.  Based on its history, mentioning the UN and an honest outcome in the same sentence should be illegal.

Unfortunately, it is not clear that the panels mandate is sufficiently broad enough to fulfill the Security Councils June 1 call for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.   Dont worry, Times.  Theyll come to the conclusion youre looking for.  Thats a guarantee.  Its in the bag.

A United Nations spokesman said the panel would make findings about the facts and circumstances and the context of the incident. But the United States ambassador, Susan Rice, described a narrower mandate receiving the conclusions of separate Israeli and Turkish investigations into the flotilla attack but focusing on preventing future incidents.

The panel will have no subpoena authority and is not empowered to do its own inquiry, although it can request additional data from Israeli and Turkish officials.  Yawn.

For six weeks after the flotilla incident, Israel and Turkey traded threats that played into the hands of extremists and came to the brink of severing ties. So it is a relief that they have cooled the rhetoric and looked for a way to put the incident behind them.  Traded threats?  Turkey made threats, not Israel.  Why is this fact so difficult to state?  Oh, sorry, I forgot.  We're talking about the New York Times.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the United States worked hard to negotiate the compromise agreement. They must work just as hard to ensure the investigation is not politicized and that it uncovers the full story of what happened on May 31 so it wont happen again.   Yeah, right.  And the cow jumped over the moon.

Zeke ..... The Peas Process continues ..... .... ... Obama wants Israel to negotiate with Abbas ... except Abbas' term as president ended 18 months ago ... .and no new elections were held ...... because Hamas would win --- and then control the West Bank, as well as Gaza. ..... ..... IF Abbas signed a peace agreement, he would be dead within the day. .... so his goal is to string it out, and not agree to any resolution. .... ... Egypt, the Palestinians, other Arabs and Muslims all depict Jews as sub humans in their school books. .... .... Obama wants Israel to make major concessions to bring Abbas to the negotiating table .... so Abbas just digs in and keeps refusing. .... What exactly did Israel gain by withdrawing from Gaza ..... other than 10,000 missiles fired at their civilians. (08/03/10)


BARNEY FRANK & CHARLES RANGEL: TWO PEAS IN A POD

Ken Berwitz

What a sad parallel there is between the corrupt liar Charles Rangel and the corrupt liar Barney Frank.

Most of us are well aware of Rangel's depredations.  And a good number (though not enough) understand Frank's involvement in the sub-prime meltdown (remember that interview when Bill O'Reilly made mincemeat of Frank by putting up a video of him saying the exact opposite of what he was claiming he said)? 

But Barney Frank is about more than just lying about his sub-prime involvement.  And we are fortunate enough to have sweetness-light.com's Steve Gilbert, whose excellent blog, which I am excerpting below, lays the details out for us (the bold print is his, not mine):

Frank Interceded For Another Corrupt Dem

August 3rd, 2010

 

Now this is a different sort of legal defense. From the Boston Herald:

Barney Frank defends support of bank after call from disgraced pol

By Frank Quaratiello  |   Tuesday, August 3, 2010

 

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank said yesterday he has no regrets about his role in helping a troubled Boston bank qualify for a $12 million federal bailout now at the center of ethics charges against California Rep. Maxine Waters.

 

In fact, Frank chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee says he never helped OneUnited at the behest of Waters, whose husband had served on the banks board.

 

Instead, the Bay State congressman said he worked to promote the bailout at the request of scandal-plagued then-state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson.

 

I was already working on behalf of OneUnited, I was called by Senator Wilkerson and others, I dont remember who. I was out in California doing a hearing and got a call from Wilkerson, he told the Herald yesterday.

How does intervening for one crooked politician preclude intervening for another?

At the time Frank said he acted on Wilkersons behalf, the senator was one month away from federal bribery charges to which she recently pleaded guilty. She had previously pleaded guilty to failure to pay federal income taxes and been cited for unreported campaign donations and expenditures.

 

In 2001, she was fined as a sitting senator by the State Ethics Commission for failing to report consulting fees from OneUniteds predecessor, the Boston Bank of Commerce, for which she had lobbied.

Ah, yes, that is much better, Mr. Frank.

 

By the way, this article only touches on a few of the highlights of Ms. Wilkersons illustrious political career.

I urge you to use the link I've provided and read Steve's entire blog, in which he enumerates the "highlights" of Ms. Wilkerson's career that are alluded to above.  They aren't very pretty.

This is exactly the kind of crap Republicans get nailed for -- and Democrats all too often are given a free pass on.

But maybe not this time.  We can always hope, can't we?


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